One of the world’s foremost wind quintets meets one of today’s finest pianists in a work that many consider to be the best work for piano and winds: Poulenc’s Sextet, as well as works by other French composers. The composer himself called it ‘a homage to the wind instruments which I have loved from the moment I began composing’, and its cheeky character, virtuosic drive and catchy melodies are typical of his other writing for wind instruments. Poulenc also supplied the piano with a crucial – and virtuosic – part, however, including jazzy elements typical of the period as well as emotional outbursts in the manner of Rachmaninov.
Jean Françaix: a quintessentially French composer following in the tradition of Saint-Saëns, Poulenc and Satie; composer of some one-hundred-and-fifty works; and virtuoso pianist in his own right. The four works on this recording were composed between 1942 (the Divertissement—very much a 'distraction' during the Nazi Occupation of France) and 1977 (the Clarinet Quintet). All four share a high degree of compositional mastery, but this is always embedded within an air of grace, of profound charm, and of wit. It is perhaps this sense of humour which has so endeared Françaix's music to generations of musicians and music-lovers. But despite the facts that L'heure du berger was composed in honour of a Parisian restaurant who were to use it as 'background' music, that Françaix self-deprecatingly passed off A huit as a 'stop-gap to fill a programme' for the Vienna Octet, and that the Divertissement contains unashamedly blatant musical jokes, these compositions are unmistakably the work of an expert, a distinctively 'Gallic' artist.
The young Thalia Ensemble erupted into the public spotlight with their being chosen as winners at the prestigious biennial York Early Music International Young Artists Competition. Their debut release spotlights the compositions of Antoine Reicha. Regarded as a pre-eminent composer for winds, Reicha , a flautist had an uncanny gift of melding the various wind instruments into a rich sonic tapestry in his compositions and the Thalia Ensemble’s inspired and dynamic playing proves to be a perfect match with the lively Wind Quintets.